Revised DWP letter to GPs 'continues to be actively misleading'

By agency reporter
July 8, 2019

From 2017 to 2 June 2019, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) sent letters to doctors, stating that their patients did not need a 'fit note' any more because they had been found fit for work by the DWP. This letter left severely ill and disabled claimants unable to obtain Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to which they are entitled, pending appeal, said anti-poverty charity Z2K.

Z2K said the letters threatened the doctor – patient relationship, put patients at risk of damaging their health further, and was leaving patients in serious financial difficulties.

During a thirteen month period, the letter was sent to over 146,500 GPs, leaving thousands of people vulnerable to having their benefits taken away or being forced onto Universal Credit, because they could not afford to live on little to no income waiting for their appeal.

From 3 June 2019, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) began sending out a revised version of their much contended letter to GPs. This is the second time the letter has now been revised due to outrage by charities, MPs, claimants, doctors and patients. Z2K has been running a Scrap the Letters campaign, and collected over 117,000 signatures on a petition.

The revised letter to GPs from the DWP begins "We no longer need Statements of Fitness for Work (known as Fit Notes) for your patient as they are fit for work"

The letter then repeats this same statement, and then bullet points three ways in which doctors may still issue fit notes subject to their ‘clinical discretion’. This letter either assumes expert benefit knowledge or relies on the GP researching the links provided.

Raji Hunjan, CEO of Z2K said: "The revised letters continue to be actively misleading and ultimately lead to people being denied benefits that they are entitled to. The letters actively dissuades or stops GPs from making decisions that they should be able to make without interference from the DWP. Why do GPs need to know the DWP have declared the person fit for work, and then be told that they can still provide fit notes in some circumstances?"

Hunjan continues, "We are really disappointed with this outcome. Although the revised letter is a little less confusing, the DWP should have consulted with specialist advice charities like ours and directly with the disabled and ill people that they are affecting.  Simply withdrawing these letters altogether would prevent the harm we’ve seen from happening again and the 117,000 people who signed our petition agree with us."

* Read the new, revised DWP letter here

* Z2K https://www.z2k.org/

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